Matthew Berman is the founder and CEO of Ember Networks, a digital marketing agency and interactive media firm located in New Orleans. Ember Networks helps businesses do business online through web design, search engine optimization, social media management, and media production.
Heading into the New Orleans Central Business District, I stand in a crowded streetcar on a muggy Friday afternoon. Some riders glance indifferently towards people shuffling on and off the old-fashioned transport line, but most eyes remain transfixed on smartphones and tablets. White earbuds dangle off ears, each of us in a virtual world of personal mobile computing.
As the pace of technological evolution accelerates, our devices will fade into the background, incorporating into everyday life. Anything could become a digital interface. The true benefit of wearable technology is in seamless integration of technology, a world of connectivity, communication, and information without clunky or interruptive devices.
New Orleans is a city with a thriving entrepreneurial and digitally progressive community. We are the perfect innovation hub to perfect and extend the frontier of technology. Let us examine the following defining tenets of New Orleans and prospect how wearable technology could benefit from the New Orleans experience.
In wearable computing there lies enormous potential for New Orleans tourism. After all, tourism is a major engine of the cities economy. In 2012 over 9 million tourists visited New Orleans. Visitors come and are on the move, constantly learning about city offerings, services, and establishments. Wearable technology can provide relevant contextual information without the user having to pull out and access an interruptive device, helping to bridge the divide between the offline and online world.
As mobile web usage increases, particularly on wearable devices, there is increased discovery opportunity for local businesses, and the greatest discovery engine is search. We will see New Orleans businesses invest in local search optimization. In 2013 we’ve seen Google implement major algorithm and user experience overhauls to local search. 50% of searches are local with 61% of these searches resulting in purchases. Smart New Orleans business owners will see enormous marketing potential by capitalizing on travelers (and locals) moving throughout New Orleans using ultra portable wearable devices to search for business products and services.
New Orleans businesses owners will also invest in mobile responsive websites. Responsive websites change form and function depending on the device accessing the website. Responsive websites resize for smartphones, tablets, and wearable displays to give the user an optimal web experience. People aren’t going to pinch, zoom, or waste time loading one businesses non-optimized website when they can have a better experience on a competitors website. As consumer behavior continues to move towards mobile consumption (and will increase with internet capable mobile devices) responsive web design will be a must have for local businesses to effectively compete in the online marketplace.
New Orleans is a city full of energy and fun. African, Cuban/Caribbean, and Calypso influence are evident in the blaring horns, funky bass lines, and drum lines featured in New Orleans music. NOLA bands play long sets and are no stranger to audience requests. It’s commonplace for jazz musicians to carry Real Books, a collection of sheet music for hundreds of jazz standards, because memorizing hundreds of songs in multiple keys is unrealistic. Carrying books and flipping through sheet music during shows will become a thing of antiquity. Applications built for wearable devices can easily provide realtime song information presenting sheet music and tablature on covert visual displays.
Wearable devices can use built in audio sensors to detect song key, display song lyrics to the performers and audience, and allow sound engineers to communicate with the band on stage. Musicians will put on better performances – with audiences and venues reaping the rewards.
Food & Alcohol
You can’t mention New Orleans without talking about the unabashed celebration of rich foods and alcoholic beverages. For many, New Orleans is a hub of consumption, and, with a thriving service industry, exists as perfect testing grounds for ambassador applications. Take the following theoretical example of an alcohol brand using wearable devices to build relationships with New Orleans influencers.
Alcohol advertisers can use wearable technology, particularly life casting devices, to connect and build relationships with bartenders. Brands can incentivize placement on backbars, encourage pouring opportunities, menu placement, and gather feedback through wearable devices, which bartenders could turn on at times during their shift. The devices won’t have to be held and won’t get in the way of the bartenders job. Bartenders who connect with the brand can win trips, money, and ambassador recognition through use of the brands social influence.
Wearable applications don’t have to be complex to be useful. Bars and restaurants can tie menus to geographic locations. Users can opt-in to receive a notification and a menu display when near or in an establishment, increasing walk-ins and server efficiency.
Health conscious individuals can even tap into wearable biosensors for continuous alcohol monitoring embedded in clothing, wristwatches, and more.
The possibilities of wearable technology are truly endless, bound only by creativity. The character, history, and sheer persistence of New Orleans influence will continue to inspire and reflect in how we interact with technology and the world around us.